Indian Summer eastern washington country rural farm ranch painting steve henderson

Beauty, Hope, and Joy — The Paintings of Steve Henderson

Indian Summer eastern washington country rural farm ranch beauty painting steve henderson

Indian Summer, original oil painting by Dayton, WA, artist Steve Henderson. “I find much beauty in the patterns of fields cut through by country roads,” Henderson says of why he paints local, Eastern Washington landscapes.

It’s easy to point out what’s wrong with the world. We all do this, although only a few are paid well to impose their opinions on others.

It is far more difficult to see and identify beauty, truth, goodness, joy, peace, and love, and even more challenging to impart these elements in two dimensional form on canvas. But for oil painter Steve Henderson of Dayton, this is what he does every day.

moon rising southwest tucson arizona desert beauty indian woman blanket steve henderson painting art

Moon Rising, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. “The Southwest — its canyons are so deep, so profound, its land is so ancient and yet so quiet and peaceful.”

“I paint in what is called the ‘representational’ style — the world around us that we all see,” Henderson says. “But oftentimes it takes an artist to help us ‘really see’ it. And while items I paint are easily identifiable — that’s a tree; that’s Santa Claus; that’s the Grand Canyon —  each one of these subjects is interpreted by the artist to convey its deeper levels behind the lighting, the shadows, the turn of a face, the brush strokes that make up the form.

“The canvas becomes a stage upon which the artist presents the character actors — color, texture, form, design, value. On that stage, I choose to invite beauty, reminiscence, nostalgia, feelings of serenity, peace, tranquility — those emotions.”

A Tale of Beauty

Henderson’s scope of subject matter reads a bit like the opening lines to Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: He paints the Pacific Northwest forests; he paints the Southwest canyons. He paints the ocean; he paints the desert. He paints very young children; he paints adult women. What he does not paint is ugliness, despair, angst, fear or hatred: not because those elements don’t exist, but because they do, in too much quantity. It is far too easy, Henderson believes, to spark an emotional response by negativism, and it becomes a cheap, easy way to achieve a reaction.

Although Henderson has always wanted to be an artist — drawing his first three-masted sailboat at the age of five and attracting teachers’ attention throughout his schooldays because of his rendering skill — he almost quit, simply because what he was taught in his university art studies was so opposite to what he believes is commonsense, truth, beauty, and common good.

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Tea for Two, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. “Children can teach us so much — they remind us to look at the world with fresh eyes,” Henderson says, adding that there is great beauty in innocence.

“At the end of four years, I was more confused than ever,” he recalls. “One moment, the professors instructed us not to listen to a thing they said, but to simply follow our muse; another moment they insisted that we essentially copy the latest post-modernist fads emanating from New York City. I found myself painting gritty purple abstract cityscapes, which my professors assured me was expressing what was deep inside me.”

Seeking Beauty, Truth, and Skill

For awhile, Henderson walked away from fine art into the illustration and graphic design industry that his professors declared would destroy him as an artist. Instead, his time in the publishing field further honed his skills as Henderson worked in a wide variety of media, creating everything from cartoon drawings to medical illustrations.

Time, life, and raising a family instilled in Henderson the confidence he needed to eschew the teachings of his fallible professors, and he resumed studying art his own way: one by one, he amassed a library of artists through the ages, and spent uncounted hours poring over their work, analyzing thousands of paintings and the varying techniques and styles of their painters. In the studio, he practiced. He knew what he wanted to achieve — skill, mastery, and the ability to convey beauty and truth — and he also knew that simply relying upon “the Muse,” or the “soul of an artist” was insufficient to do so.

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Sea Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. “I find the ocean to be a central place for clear thoughts and meditation.”

“We all acknowledge that the piano player requires years of intense practice — his performance is proof of his obvious skill, or lack of it,” Henderson says.

“But in visual arts — both two and three dimensional — we glibly refer to anything as ‘art,’ and anyone as an ‘artist.’ I believe an artist should learn, train, and study as seriously as any orchestral musician.”

The World Needs Art, and Beauty

This learning, he adds, never ends, and there is no pinnacle ledge at which the artist arrives, shouts out Hallelujah, and quits learning, seeing, and experimenting. An artist’s education continues for as long as the artist is breathing, and the beauty that the artist (skillfully) paints gives life and hope to the world in which the artist lives.

“The world needs art.

“It sounds trite, but I believe it deeply.

“It has always been so, but especially today with our corporate, cubicle world and its emphasis on cold scientific facts, we need something more than ever before that speaks of beauty and something deeper that those cold facts.

“We need something that speaks to the soul, the heart, the inner working of our being.”

Wenaha GallerySteve Henderson is the Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, November 19 through Saturday, December 15, 2018. He will be at the gallery in person during the Christmas Kickoff Holiday Art Show Friday, November 23, from 2 to 6 p.m., joined by Joseph, OR folk art gourd sculptor Sheryl Parsons. Also at the show will be holiday music, artisan treats, a drawing for 3 holiday gift baskets, and up to 25% off purchases of $250 or more made on November 23 and/or 24.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

artisan natural soap azure botanicals dayton wa

New Year’s Resolution: Enjoy Artisan Soap from Azure Mountain

artisan natural soap azure botanicals dayton wa

A selection of artisan soaps, handcrafted in small batches at Azure Mountain Botanicals in Dayton, WA

The New Year’s Resolution has been around for a long time. Purportedly, ancient Babylonians started the process 6,000 years ago with promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay off their debts.

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Bubble Bath Truffles, the perfect soak after a New Year’s Resolution workout, made by Azure Mountain Botanicals in Dayton, WA

Julius Caesar finessed the New Year’s Resolution when he renovated the calendar and created a January 1. And now we’re full fledged into it — for the first two weeks at any rate — with promises to eat better and exercise more. And while there’s no guarantee we’ll finish our year’s gym membership with the gusto with which we begin, Art and Brenda Hall of Azure Mountain Botanicals can ensure that we emerge clean and happy when the workout is over.

“Our main focus is cold process soap making,” Brenda, co-owner of the Dayton-based, artisan personal products store, says, “but we also make balms, butters, soaking salts, and bath bombs.” Soaking salts have been known through time to relieve pain, inflammation, and sore muscles, Brenda adds, and a little indulgence after hard work is never amiss.

Artisan Soap, New All Year Round

“We focus on small, local, and handmade,” Brenda says, explaining that smaller batches of soap, butters, balms, and salts ensures greater control over the quality. “We also locally source ingredients as much as possible. For instance, our Dumas soap is made with Dumas Station wine, and has grape pomace that is collected, dried, and ground.

artisan handcrafted natural bath truffle azure botanicals dayton wa

A handcrafted, artisan bath truffle — the perfect solution after a New Year’s Resolution workout, by Azure Mountain Botanicals of Dayton, WA

“Apple Ale is made with Chief Springs Apple Ale that includes cider from Warren Orchards.  Peachy Keen and Strawberry Cream Ale is made from Laht Neppur Ales.”

Making soap from beer, wine and spirits requires simmering the liquid until no alcohol remains, closely monitoring the mixture because high sugars intensify potential reactions. Other liquids the Halls have incorporated into their creations include tea, tisanes, honey and goat milk along with essential oils that add fragrance as well as skin nourishing properties.

Inspiration from Artists and Clients

With a soapmaking canvas that is “limitless,” the couple seeks inspiration — and gives credit to — customers and clients whose observations and requests spur a design: “Deer Slayer was inspired by a local young hunter,” Brenda says. “Anne’s Mystery Mountain Mint, Hippy Up, Sarah’s Earl Grey, Honey Hemp, and Winter Cocoa are all people-inspired soaps.”

handcrafted soy candle azure botanicals dayton wa

Handcrafted, artisan soy candles by Brenda and Art Hall, owners of Azure Mountain Botanicals

Artisan bath products are not the only items that are locally inspired: the Hall’s shop, located in the historic Dantzscher building on Dayton’s Main Street, reflects the skill and work of regional artists, with the outside sign and inside shelving created from reclaimed wood by Dayton craftsman Yancy Yost, who also fashioned the bubble-emitting clawfoot bathtub set before the store’s entrance. The worktables, deliberately open to public view, were built by Leroy Cunningham of Waitsburg’s L Design Reclaimed, which specializes in repurposing vintage woods. The logo, as well as the color palette of the studio, are the brainchild of the couple’s daughter, artist Liz Whaley of Liz W Fine Art.

“We are quite proud of using local artists and resources at our studio,” Brenda says.

The Couple That Makes Soap Together

The couple has been making soap together for more than ten years, beginning in college when Art took an organic chemistry class from a professor who believed strongly in hands-on, practical experience.

artisan handcrafted wooly soap bars azure botanicals dayton wa

A selection of felted wooly soap bars, handcrafted artisan personal care items from Azure Mountain Botanicals

“They made things like biobricks, biofuel, and soap,” Brenda remembers. “Art brought his soap class project home and wanted to make it again — I thought it was too plain and insisted that we add something to it, like lavender essential oil and ground rosemary.” Friends who enthused over the results encouraged the couple to show the soap at an event at Dayton’s historic train depot, and the response to that encouraged the couple to further explore fragrances, essential oils, natural additives like clay and oatmeal, and color.

Despite holding down “day jobs” — Art is a property Manager for General Services Administration in Richland and Brenda is a registered nurse — the couple opened the doors to their store in 2015, and in that short time their artisan products have found homes as far away as New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, and California. They are constantly experimenting with new blends (“Soaps that misbehave often still turn out nice”) and the major challenge the couple encounters has nothing to do with running out of ideas, but more with keeping up with them.

Year-round New Year’s Resolution

“Sometimes, there are so many soaps and other products I want to make that it is difficult for clients to choose from the selection — or, they buy something and tell us it is too pretty to use!”

But that’s a good problem, Brenda reflects, one that blends well with their business and life goals:

“We both have a strong work ethic, believe in customer service, and do our best to provide the finest product possible.”

That’s not a bad New Year’s Resolution, one to keep day in, day out, all year round.

Wenaha Gallery

Brenda and Art Hall of Azure Mountain Botanicals are the featured Art Event  at Wenaha Gallery from Tuesday, January 2, 2018, through Saturday, January 27, 2018.  

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

harvesters two sisters children picking autumn grapes steve henderson

Community Giving — All Year Round

harvesters two sisters children picking autumn grapes steve henderson

What is a community, really, but a family of human beings who share their resources? The Harvesters, by Steve Henderson

Life happens.

And while there are other, more expressive ways of voicing this observation — some singularly  inappropriate for the family newspaper — the intimation is the same: people lose their jobs, get sick, or have an accident, resulting in life not going on the way it did before.

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Food is a celebration, a necessity, and a gift. Art of a Peel by Ken Auster

When we learn of another’s pain, our common response as decent human beings is to feel a sense of sympathy, sometimes going beyond this to see what we can tangibly do to help our fellow humans in their distress. After all, we realize, the unexpected blows of life can hit any of us, at any time.

But sometimes, in our effort to keep our own world secure and safe (because who wants to feel that we can be hit, randomly, by a meteorite?) we probe and parse the issue:

“I bet he was texting too much at work. Maybe a little alcohol problem there, too, eh?”

“I heard she smoked a lot when she was younger. It was lung cancer, wasn’t it?”

“All those kids in the car making noise — it’s a clear case of distraction and not paying attention. Distracted driving is against the law in this state.”

We Are a Community of Family, and Families

And then, once we imagine a possible cause unlikely to mirror any in our own experience, we’re off the hook when it comes to feeling compassion, because, really, the person sort of deserved what they got. It’s tempting to assign a mental number to the tragedy — with 1 accorded very little sympathy because the person acted foolishly and really should have foreseen the consequences and 10 scoring high because this tragedy was in no way the person’s fault.

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Things seem bleaker, and colder, in the winter, especially after the holidays. Candleman by James Christensen

But there are problems with this natural tendency to sort through our world and makes sense of it by classification, notably,

  1. We are not gods, and never, ever know the full situation, and
  2. Because we are not gods, we chronically, consistently, and masterfully make very human mistakes, many of which frequently do not — fortunately for us — result in our getting the desserts we “deserve.” But sometimes . . . they do.

A wise person once said that the criteria we use to judge others will turn around and be used thusly on us ourselves, and if this is so, it is sensible to approach the misfortunes of others with compassion, understanding, thoughtfulness, and empathy — reactions we ourselves embrace with relief when undergoing our own trials.

Supporting Our Community

It is with this awareness that Pat and Ed Harri, the owners of Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, started an annual canned food drive at the gallery, with everything collected during the month of January dedicated to the Community Food Bank in Dayton.

“We purposely chose January, because during the Christmas season, there is so much focus on gift-giving and celebration that once you are over the seasonal holidays, people are almost burnt out,” Pat explains.

Canned food community drive wenaha gallery

It’s a sculpture of canned food, representing the bounty given by community members to the Dayton Food Bank

“But when it comes to helping people, this is a need that exists all year. And January can be a very cold, bleak month.”

Entering somewhere around its tenth year (Pat isn’t sure), the Annual Canned Food Drive regularly brings in some 500 pounds of food, spanning everything from tuna fish and diced tomatoes to artisan chocolate bars and organic sugar. The gallery collects it through the month and creates an artistic display, one that changes as new items are dropped off.

Having Fun Giving Back

“We’ve had several  people through the years who really get into the spirit of the giving,” Pat says. “They go shopping especially for our canned food event, and ask themselves — ‘What would I buy to put in my own cupboard?’ and that’s what they bring.” Others burrow through their pantries and gather largesse. All leave off their wares with a sense of satisfaction and joy.

It’s fun — and humbling — to see what arrives each day, Pat adds, and by the end of the month, what starts out as a trickle winds up as a flood. Before food bank volunteers arrive to cart the food away, the gallery staff enjoys setting up the totality and taking a photo, adding with it their own warm wishes to fellow community members who are going through a tough time.

“The cans of food that people bring in are gifts — gifts to people in our community who are having a hard time and need encouragement from others,” Pat says. “I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of the people in this area.”

Wenaha Gallery

The Annual Canned Food Drive is the featured Art Event  at Wenaha Gallery from Thursday, December 28 through Wednesday, January 31, 2018.  During this time, for every can or non-perishable item of food brought into the gallery, the giver will receive $2 off their next framing order, up to a total of 20% off. Additional cans brought in after the 20% maximum will apply toward a subsequent framing order.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

talented trio artists rastovich ostergaard

Talented Trio — Three Different Artists Keep it All in the Family

talented trio artists rastovich ostergaard

The Talented Trio of Michael Rastovich, LuAnn Ostergaard, and Joseph Rastovich inspire one another to heightened creativity

We’ve all heard that two heads are better than one.

But then again, too many cooks spoil the broth. And because it’s wise to take all maxims with a grain of salt, we recognize that the truth lies somewhere in between.

Numachi abstract photograph print LuAnn Ostergaard talented trio

Numachi, abstract photograph print by LuAnn Ostergaard, one of the Talented Trio family of artists

Such is the experience of the Talented Trio — a husband/wife, parent/son amalgamation consisting of Michael Rastovich, illustrator and animator; his wife LuAnn Ostergaard, digital abstract photographer; and their son Joseph Rastovich, metal sculpture artist of both home decor and public art.

The Kennewick family works, lives, collaborates, encourages, critiques, and innovates together as professional artists, or as LuAnn puts it,

“We are closely connected in our personal lives, and it shows in our collaborative, creative professions as artists. There’s a lot of cooperation. We work together to help the others with inspiration, new ideas, and methods of creating.”

Joseph agrees, wryly observing:

“Art by committee is fraught with difficulties.

“However, when the right minds come together, the synergy can create outstanding results.”

Joseph: “Powerful Brainstorming” by the Talented Trio

Crediting his parents as critical mentors in his creative career, Joseph describes “powerful brainstorming” sessions featuring (three) different perspectives, sometimes vastly contrasting, with an outcome that is often superior to the original single perspective.

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A metal sculpture home decor lamp by Joseph Rastovich, the youngest member of the Talented Trio

For Joseph, art has been a part of his life since childhood, growing up with full-time artist parents, and being “unschooled” in a creative environment that allowed him to have the time, freedom, and tools to create whenever he wanted. By the age of 25, he had installed 11 public art projects throughout the Pacific Northwest, in addition to creating an array of home decor wall art and furniture that he sells through various art galleries, festivals, and retail stores.

“He literally grew up with a paintbrush in his hand, and flourished as a young artist,” LuAnn says.

LuAnn: Leaving the Corporate World

She, however, experienced a different world before she entered that of a full-time independent artist. Though LuAnn comes from a long line of artists dating back to her great grandfather, she started out in a corporate work environment. The memory of a different way of doing things enhances her gratitude for the way things are now.

“After spending five years working in a windowless office with a powerful, good -paying job in the corporate world, I made the decision to take the journey as an artist,” LuAnn says.

“Some evenings, when I came out of the building to go home after work, I would see a glorious sunset and realize I was missing it. I would just stand there, reveling in it as it quickly faded away.”

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Chalice, original drawing by Michael Rastovich, the patriarch of the Talented Trio

She wanted to do work that she believed in, experiencing a flow of creativity in which she expressed her own ideas. Seeing the world with an intensity that caused her to notice thing other people didn’t, she wanted to bring her creative visions to tangible reality. So when she walked away from her corporate job, she never looked back: every day since then reaffirms that decision.

“I take pride and have a sense of accomplishment when completing my creative work for the day.”

Michael: A Passion for Drawing

Michael knew from a very young age that he was an artist, incorporating both commercial and independent work into his professional dossier: he does design, animation, illustration, etching, digital, and graphics, with his true passion being drawing.

“I have spent my life trying to understand our world, by drawing it,” he says. “The challenge of seeing the world, and suggesting its forms with accuracy, economy and simple tools is joyful for me.”

Michael studied under master artists Siegfried Hahn and Howard Wexler, living in an adobe hut in the New Mexico desert while honing and perfecting his skills. He has worked for a museum design company in Portland, OR, creating conceptual drawings for the creation of new museums through the U.S., and presently develops animation projects for businesses of all sizes and scope. He also custom builds the framing boxes upon which LuAnn mounts her digitally enhanced, abstract photographs.

A Trio of Talent and Collaboration

It’s all part of working together.

“As a family of working artists, we spend nearly every waking moment creating and helping each other with our creations,” Michael says. “Over the years, we have each developed specific skills, and we depend on each other for support in this sometimes challenging, but always rewarding, life as artists.”

“Holidays, weekends, and down-time are meaningless,” LuAnn adds. “You are an artist, and your life’s work is all that matters.

“You were born to be an artist, and it is your purpose in life and your life’s work — you can do nothing else.”

Wenaha Gallery

LuAnn Ostergaard, Michael Rastovich, and Joseph Rastovich are the featured Pacific Northwest artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, November 6 through Saturday, December 2, 2017.   The Talented Trio will be at the gallery in person Saturday, November 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., for a special show also featuring Kennewick watercolor artist Laura Gable.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

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